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Pressure in Tripp Case Denied

July 22, 1998

TOWSON, Md. (AP) _ The Maryland prosecutor who is investigating Linda Tripp for possible violation of state wiretap law offered a description Wednesday of contacts with other officials in the case, but denied any political pressure to pursue the matter.

Tripp recorded conversations with Monica Lewinsky about the former White House intern’s relationship with Clinton. Republicans have argued that any prosecution of Mrs. Tripp by state prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, a Democrat, would be politically motivated.

GOP Delegate Robert Flanagan filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request that Montanarelli disclose any communications with officials, including people from the Clinton administration, that encouraged him to investigate Ms. Tripp.

Montanarelli denied being contacted by anyone in the state or national administrations, although he acknowledged calls from lawmakers encouraging him to proceed.

``I do not know anyone in the Clinton administration,″ he said. ``No one from the (Gov. Parris) Glendening administration has tried to contact my office.″

Montanarelli denied being influenced by a letter signed by 49 state lawmakers who encouraged an investigation.

``As to statements made by Ms. Tripp’s attorneys that I have told them I was receiving pressure to investigate, they are in error,″ he said.

Despite Montanarelli’s explanation, Mrs. Tripp’s lawyers said Wednesday the case appeared politically motivated.

Under Maryland law, illegally taping a conversation is a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Taping such a conversation would constitute one offense, while using the tape in any way _ listening to it, copying it, giving away a copy or letting a third party hear it _ is a separate offense.

In early July, Montanarelli said he will ask a grand jury to consider whether to charge Mrs. Tripp.

Her lawyers have said she was unaware that Maryland law barred secretly tape-recorded phone calls, which may become key to their defense.

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